Some time ago I was asked the following question by a commenter from Finland:
I would like to ask, if you could concider writing a post about how rather unfeminine woman can become more feminine... I do wear mostly skirts at home...The problem is that I really don't like "feminine staff", ruffles,
pastel colours, jewels and make up. Last one is easy because my hubby
doesn't really like makeup or polished nails etc. My hair is long,but I
like to keep it on simple braid or ponytail. I like collar shirts (from
ladys department) and hate high heels -which is good because I couldn't
were them anyway. I also like rahter plain style.
She also adds in her next comment:
I thought a lot about this being-more-feminine -matter yesterday
evening. I think I must have misunderstood something. I started thinking
about my both grandmothers. I am quite sure, that nobody would never
ever have described them "manly". And yet they both were very strong
women, farmer's wifes, and used to hard work. Neither of them were make
up or jewellery (the latter was only worn in parties.) They wore dresses
and skirts mostly, of course, but the colours were usually rather dark -
they were that generation who concidered it inappropriate for elderly
women to dress in light colours.
So I guess behaviour is the key
word here? I know it is propably obvious to everyone else but here in
Finland people usually do not behave very well. Women with most feminine
attire can swear, yell on their children or husbands or behave very
aggressively. My grandmothers would have never done that.
Writing about feminine clothes is difficult on its own because people often take offence at what you say as they tend to take everything personally nowadays, but since I was asked a question I'm going to try to answer it according to the way I see things. Please note that it's not my intention to criticise or attack anyone who thinks differently.
From a historical point of view, traditional clothes for men in Western Europe were trousers, while for women it was long skirts/dresses. (It goes back to the Germanic tribes, because as we know, previously, in Ancient Rome and Greece, the difference between male and female clothes was shorter robes for men vs longer robes for women). Things started changing when women moved into traditionally male occupations, went into professional sports and the equality of the sexes became a general principle. Yet, perhaps quite hypocritically, while the society accepts women wearing trousers it still doesn't react all too nicely when a man dons a skirt.
This fact above all demonstrates that deep down inside people still think that skirts/dresses are distinctly female clothes and can't be an appropriate garb for men.The same is true about hair, men generally have shorter hair than women, the majority of them prefers women with long hair as evidenced by this blog post. For those who are Christians among us, there is also the biblical admonition about women having long hair as a natural covering. So a lady who has long hair and mostly wears skirts, is already distinctly feminine.
As for other things mentioned in the comment, it's noteworthy that in the times past when women didn't normally wear that which pertains to a man heavy makeup was considered the mark of a prostitute, as we can read in old novels, such as Gone With The Wind. I don't think there is anything wrong with makeup, however, I wonder sometimes if there is a connection between women switching to wearing traditionally masculine clothes and heavy makeup, to highlight the fact that there still is a difference between male and female.
Now a collar shirt isn't always a very feminine thing to wear (it depends on a sort of shirt though), but it could be easily substituted with more feminine style tops. They don't have to have ruffles or only be in pastel colours. As for high heels, again, it's proven that men react positively to women wearing them, but they aren't always convenient and can cause back pain, especially as one gets older. High heels are generally a must with formal wear, but outside that you can just wear some nice-looking flats. Here it would be probably a good idea to post some pictures, but since it costs so much time to find appropriate examples of what I'm talking about, it's probably better to write a separate post about it.
The second comment is very interesting because it shows that people in the previous generations knew the distinctions between formal and informal wear, something which we have chiefly forgotten. Makeup, jewellery, high heels were reserved for special occasions. In fact, a book I have suggests that women use plain woolen/cotton skirts for housework and reserve nicer clothes for going out, it also teaches that the day wear should be in dark colours as not to attract too much attention in the streets, which was considered indecent. (Here I'm not sure if it was more typical for European countries than for the USA).
Since in Europe there always have been a strong class distinction, the clothes one wore were also dependent on one's social position. Nowadays the rules have become more relaxed, or I'd rather say, there are few of them left, at least for lower middle/middle class. In my opinion, it's still helpful to distinguish between formal and casual wear ( I have done a couple of posts on this topic, unfortunately, some of the pictures I linked to, have been lately deleted), however, since we live in the times when anything goes, you don't have to depend on one particular style, but can choose something which is more suitable for your figure type and your personal taste.
There are various feminine styles which are popular nowadays, such as more formal (think stewardesses), neo-Victorian, romantic, 1940s-1950s retro style, ethno style etc. This topic probably deserves a separate blog post, with pictures to illustrate my point, however, it's important to remember that there is space enough for individual choice. As for feminine behaviour, again, it's probably better to discuss it in a separate post.
I hope it was helpful!